Corner Hotel, Melbourne March 27, 2018
Report: Greg Phillips. Photos: Mark Moray (Wicked Rock Photography)

You know it’s going to be a memorable night when the house is packed and pumped well before the support act makes an appearance. Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) and his band Promise of the Real, waltz onto stage and launch into Aliens, a song Lukas tells us he’s recently written. Four Letter Word, the opening track from their debut album is a country laced rocker, many in the audience seem to know well. The Promise of the Real guys are tight and punchy yet feature that wondrous, ragged glory which led Neil Young to requisition them for his own tour and recording purposes. The hard working unit has been together now for over a decade and it shows.

Lukas jokes to the audience that all he’s heard since landing in Australia is the word ‘shame’ (referring to the recent cricket scandal) and congratulates us as a nation for our ability to actually feel such emotion, the premise being that politically, there doesn’t seem to be too much humility at home in America.

It becomes quite obvious from the outset that Nelson’s voice bears a striking resemblance to his father’s distinct tones. Even their guitar licks feature similar ’spanky’ characteristics, however what dad produces on old ‘Trigger’ pales in comparison to some of the the fiery output produced by Lukas and his Les Paul Junior.

The vocal similarity is particularly prominent on the atmospheric Set Me Down On a Cloud, featuring sweet harmonies from the band. A highlight of the set is (Forget About) Georgia, a song which cleverly picks up where the classic Georgia on My Mind left off. Lukas tells us that he used to date a girl named Georgia and found it difficult once they split as at the time, he was playing Georgia on My Mind on stage with his father on a nightly basis. Consequently he wrote this tune, which begins as a country croon and builds into an epic, ten minute sonic sandstorm.

Anyone heading to Bluesfest over Easter needs to witness this band that locks in, listens and then proceeds to take you away with them on an alt-country, rock ’n’ roll jamboree.

Guitar legend Warren Haynes and his band Gov’t Mule waste no time in delving into some rich and substantial , jam-style rockin’ as they rip into the Staples Singers’ cover It Takes More than a Hammer and Nails, a song Mule recorded on their 2002 album The Deep End Vol 2.

Earlier in the set, the band spend quite a lot of stage time reflecting on older material. Rockin’ Horse from their debut album is dusted down and dished out with energy and finesse. Fool’s Moon from The Deep End Vol 1 follows, edging the band further into a solid groove.

Matt Abts’ thumpin’ drum beats signal the start of the familiar Slackjaw Jezebel, a perfect platform for Haynes to don his Firebird guitar and emit some fretboard fireworks. Revolution Come, Revolution Go, the title track from their current album offers the band a chance to lay down a funkier style of jam. Behind his bank of keyboards, Danny Louis resembles a mad professor concocting sounds in a lab, measuring, adding, colouring and injecting vital ingredients into the sonic mix.

A soulful Endless Parade from 2006’s High & Mighty album presents a cruisier side of the band. Nods and winks to Haynes’ music influences appear in the form of short iconic  guitar motifs. A Gimme Shelter lick is one of many. Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground, the final track off the new album is also the last song of the set proper but there ‘aint no way this crowd is letting go anytime soon.

Giving his own band a well deserved rest, Haynes returns to the stage with Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, who bind with him in a joyous version of The Band’s Makes No Difference, complete with audience sing along. A final knock out blow comes in the form of a euphoric Cortez The Killer. In a music environment, where radio is saturated with so much laptop rock, it’s heartening to experience an audience losing their minds over dueling instruments and free-form band dynamics. A killer ending to a killer show from one hell of a jam band.



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